Explaining Himself In Excruciating Detail

, , , , , , | Learning | May 26, 2020

I am a math teacher at an elementary school. In the late 1980s, I had this one fourth-grader who was very brilliant but sometimes took directions a little too literally. One day, I had the class do a special math problem together after the lesson, where they not only had to show their work as usual but also provide a written explanation on the back of the worksheet detailing the purpose of each step taken to solve the problem.

While the class was working, I noticed that the brilliant kid took a little longer to solve the problem than usual. When he turned it in at the end of class, I saw why.

He had written an overly-detailed explanation explaining literally everything he had done. It was so long and detailed that he actually took up not only the whole backside of the worksheet — most students needed only little more than half — but also about a dozen lines on a sheet of notebook paper.

I laughed to myself and gave him a four — the highest score possible — because he had solved the problem correctly and, while very long, his explanation was ”technically” correct. I told him that the next time I gave him a similar problem, he only needed to explain the solution the same way that his math book explained how to solve example problems.

It’s been over thirty years, and he has since graduated from a nearby Ivy League college and gotten a career in statistics. His son now attends my school and will be in my class for the 2020-21 school year.

1 Thumbs
383